British Airways PLC lost more luggage than any other major European airline last year, according to statistics released Wednesday.
Britain's Air Transport Users Council said that for every 1,000 passengers on the British carrier, 23 bags went astray — the worst performance among 24 airlines who are members of the Association of European Airlines.
Across all the airlines, around 5.6 million bags went missing in 2006, an average of 15.7 bags per 1,000 passengers.
Among those airlines which had worse-than-average figures were Germany's Lufthansa AG, Air France-KLM and Alitalia SpA.
About 85 percent of the bags were returned to passengers within 48 hours, the council said, but it added that some "never get returned at all."
The council said that the overall European figure could be much worse, because airlines such as Virgin Atlantic Airways Ltd. and bmi PLC do not provide luggage data. Also, budget airlines such as Ryanair Holdings PLC and easyJet PLC are not members of the Association of European airlines.
"We can only speculate on what the total might be for all airlines worldwide," said AUC chairman Tina Tietjen.
"Complaints to the council show that instances of mishandled baggage can cause passengers considerable stress, inconvenience and expense," she added. "They also show that passengers often struggle to get reasonable redress from airlines after the event."
BA's operations director Geoff Want said that the airline was dealing with a 25 percent increase in the number of checked in bags at Heathrow since last August's terror threat.
"The volumes of hold baggage going through Heathrow, the change in security procedures and some baggage system failures within Terminal 4 has not helped our performance, but we accept that overall the levels of service we offered to our customers has not been up to an acceptable standard," Want said.